LERMAsteriales 2018 : Révolution(s)

This year, the 7th edition of the LERMAsteriales was embedded in a specific context defined by student protest movements. The day before, a blockade had been organised in the Guyon Lecture Hall to oppose the ORE Act. How fitting a context to hold a study day revolving around the theme of Revolution(s). Once again, linking our research projects with this year’s theme was the major concern for us students, and once again the answer lay in the division of the guiding theme into seven sub-themes, each one being associated with a panel.

The concept of revolution was first considered as the idea of subversion in a panel chaired by Clémentine Garcenot, followed by the second panel, chaired by Antonin Premilleu, the focus of which was the idea of revolution as an astronomical movement, a cyclical return. In the following panels, chaired, respectively, by Caroline Barsacq, Pierre-Louis Pietri and Débora Valentin, other meanings attached to the notion of revolution were studied: the speakers dealt with the idea of evolution and transition, of revolution and innovation and the crises of representation. The penultimate panel, chaired by Manon Bouscasse, focused on the idea of challenging the authority. Finally, the closing panel, chaired by Déborah Halifa, reviewed some instances of silent revolutions.

A simple summary of these panels would not suffice to do justice to the real impact the LERMAsteriales have on the students, though. For this purpose, one must look back at the way this study day was presented to us, and at the emphasis put on its significant influence on our academic progress. For the first time in our studies, we had to organise a major group project with a manifold purpose: we were asked to show the progress and results of our research projects, but also demonstrate our ability to match them with this year’s guiding theme and link them together. We were also asked to take care of the organisation and make sure the day would unfold in an orderly fashion. Finally, and I believe this was the most important aspect of this event, we were asked, for the first time, to behave as professional researchers, in a professional context.

With the benefit of hindsight, none would deny the fact that this experience was beneficial for us, on several levels. We were encouraged to improve our teamwork abilities and our organisational skills, but also our capacity to stand up and speak out in public. The LERMAsteriales were the very first steps we took into the teaching/research career, hence I believe it was meant to professionalise us, rather than being a mere final oral assessment. Its ultimate purpose, then, is to make us look ahead at our professional career, and not back on our academic course. Rather than a closing ceremony, the LERMAsteriales, each year, are a stepping stone.

How Did Charles Burton Barber Showcase Victorian Identity Through His Paintings?

The 19th century, often remembered as the Victorian Era, is known for the drastic changes that took place in British society. With the industrial revolution, the ancestral feudal system had been shattered and new classes emerged. The new and increasingly powerful working and middle classes wanted to climb the social ladder of a very hierarchical society in order to share the same values and lifestyles than the upper-classes. These aspirational ideals inspired many artists who started to paint traditional images of Victorian life.

Such is the case of Charles Burton Barber (1845-1894), a Norfolk born painter who became famous thanks to his talent for sentimental paintings of children and dogs which perfectly captured the Victorian mood and exemplified the country’s transformations that took place during this period. After studying at the London Royal Academy, Barber excelled in the realist movement and was commissioned by Queen Victoria to do paintings of her grandchildren and her dogs which allowed him to become very popular. In fact, images and stories of children were very appealing to the Victorians for at the time the family was the structural backbone of English society. Therefore, painting children in such a wonderfully realistic way was a guarantee for the artist to sell his works.

Off to School

Off to School (1883) is a beautiful example of Charles Burton Barber’s taste for details and desire to construct a Victorian identity. In this painting there are two characters, a young girl and her huge dog walking her to school. And indeed, the 19th century is famous for the important changes that took place in education and schooling matters. Some private and therefore selective schools were turned into public schools and girls started to have the possibility to study after the opening for example of North London Collegiate in 1850 or Cheltenham Ladies’ College in 1858. Moreover the 1870 and 1880 Education Acts really launched mass education by making school attendance compulsory for children from 5 to 10 years old who all needed to be taught the famous 3Rs: reading, writing and arithmetic. Therefore, if the little girl in Off to School existed, as she seems to be between 7 and 10 years old, it is possible that she would be amongst the first generation of little girls attending compulsory school.

With his paintings, Charles Burton Barber perfectly captures the Victorian frame of mind. By focusing on the innocence and tenderness of young boys and girls with their pets, the artist illustrates the general classless affection for children and animals. The dog who proudly leads her mistress to school in Off to School is guiding her towards a better life where she will be educated and independent and therefore maybe he metaphorically leads Britain towards a better future in which there would be no gender or class distinctions but where everyone would have equal rights. Other artists, contemporaries to Barbers, have tried to satisfy the Victorians’ desire for child-related and sentimental works by concentrating on the same subjects. Such is the case of two London born painters, Sir Edwin Landseer (1802-1873) and Arthur John Elsley (1860-1952) who both, along with Barber, helped to build a Victorian identity – that is one of positive metamorphosis and progress.

 


The painting featured as a header is entitled Suspense
The pictures used are in public domain.